While you may consider Taco Bell among the healthier fast-food chains, there are still some menu items to watch out for. The most unhealthy Taco Bell foods feature high sodium levels, calories, carbohydrates, and other unnecessary ingredients. While enjoying the flavorful, cheesy goodness of most Taco Bell items, be sure to keep in mind the nutritional profile of these particular calorie bombs. So read on as we get into the most unhealthy Taco Bell foods, and learn about some of the other, healthier items available at this fast food chain.
Stick around as we delve into the history of this fast-food chain. We’ll take a look at the unhealthiest items offered at Taco Bell, break down their nutritional profile, and things to look out for. Learn about what menu items won’t do you any good, versus ones that will provide healthy fats, reasonable calories, and acceptable sodium levels. Your next trip to Taco Bell will be that much easier now that you know how to navigate the ins and outs of fast food eating. Now, let’s get into the most unhealthy Taco Bell foods, and what to order instead.
The History of Taco Bell
Taco Bell was inspired by Mitla Cafe, a San Bernadino, California-based cafe that sold hard-shell tacos for great prices. This cafe was opened in 1937 right off Route 66, which made it a great destination for travelers. In 1951, Glenn Bell, a frequent Mitla customer, decided to expand the menu and mass-produce Mitla's delicious hard shell tacos. He adopted a fast-food model similar to McDonald's, which had opened only a few miles away from Mitla cafe (via BBC). The very first Taco Bell was opened in 1964 and began immediate franchising. According to Statista, modern-day Taco Bell has over 8,000 restaurants, worldwide. It continues to be a main player in the fast-food scene, with a hugely expanded menu from those first hard-shell tacos, reward programs, mobile ordering, and so much more (via Taco Bell).
The Most Unhealthy Taco Bell Foods
1. Double Steak Grilled Cheese Burrito
Starting with the Double Steak Grilled Cheese Burrito which clocks in at 920 calories. It has 44 grams of total fat, with 18 grams of saturated fat. While it does deliver 40 grams of protein, it also has 7 grams of sugar, 91 grams of carbohydrates, and a whopping 2,170 milligrams of sodium. For the remainder of this list, it's good to know that the recommended daily sodium intake for adults is around 2,300 milligrams. So, this single menu item from Taco Bell pretty much covers all the salt you'll need.
2. Nachos BellGrande
Next up, we have the Nachos BellGrande. Anything with “grande” in the title, for many fast food chains, you can expect a double dose of unhealthy ingredients. This item has 730 calories to its name, with 38 grams of total fat, 81 grams of carbohydrates, and 1,130 milligrams of sodium. That's around half the recommended daily intake. While 730 calories may not seem like the highest number, these nachos are topped with fatty, salty beef, cheese sauce, and other unhealthy toppings. According to Yahoo, nutritionists consider this one of the worst Taco Bell food items because it has such a high carbohydrate and saturated fat content. These ingredients can lead to more cravings and overeating.
3. Fiesta Taco Salad
While this item does feature the term “salad,” let's take a look at what's actually included in the Fiesta Taco Salad. Clocking in at 340 calories, which is much lower than the previous two items, this has 17 grams of total fat, 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 910 milligrams of sodium. What makes the list about this “salad,” is that it's actually closer to a crunchy beef taco, with a larger shell, and more toppings. One thing to keep in mind for all of these unhealthy Taco Bell items is that additions can work for you, and against you. Adding vegetables or forgoing sour cream and meat for more rice and beans can up the nutritional profile. Adding cheese, extra meat, sauces, or other sodium-saturated toppings will do the opposite of help. That's why it's so important to know what kinds of things to look out for!
4. The Grande Scrambler Breakfast Burrito
Now we have the Grande Scrambler Breakfast Burrito, which is essentially a burrito packed with ingredients. This burrito, without meat, has 580 calories, 64 grams of carbohydrates, 29 grams of fat, and 17 grams of protein. But of course, its sodium count clocks in at 1,230 milligrams. What a salty way to start your morning! Keep in mind those numbers apply without the addition of meat, so adding beef to your Grande Scrambler Breakfast Burrito is sure to up those numbers, in not the best of ways.
5. Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Next up, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. This item features a flatbread base, with three cheeses, and a crunchy hard-shell interior, with beef, spicy ranch, lettuce, and more shredded cheese. This far into the list, a few of those ingredients should raise some red calorie flags. This item has 490 calories, with 28 grams of total fat, 41 grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of protein. It has 840 milligrams of sodium, the lowest on this list, but if you have more than two of these, you're well above the daily sodium limit.
6. Beefy 5-Layer Burrito
And last, but not least, for this list, we have the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito. Also at 490 calories, eat four of these and you're nearly at the suggested daily calorie limit for adult females. Enjoy five, and you're just below the calorie limit for adult males. This burrito has 18 grams of total fat, 65 grams of carbohydrates, and 18 grams of protein. It has 1,260 milligrams of sodium per serving. Consisting of zero lettuce, beans and cheese, nacho cheese sauce, sodium-saturated beef, and *reduced-fat sour cream. Add any toppings and this order is sure to go into the red pretty quickly. Keep in mind, that many of these unhealthy Taco Bell foods can be customized. Add more vegetables, and less salty meats to be healthier.
What to Order Instead
Alright, now that you know what to look out for, let's take a look at some of the healthier options available at Taco Bell. You've got the crunchy taco a shredded chicken quesadilla, the classic bean burrito, triple layer nachos, and a power menu veggie bowl that won't upset your nutritional goals.
1. Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Melt
The shredded chicken quesadilla melt has 260 calories, and only 560 milligrams of sodium. All things considered, it's pretty basic in terms of ingredients. You're getting a good dose of protein (7 grams) from the shredded chicken, and only 36 grams of carbohydrates. Add a side of rice and some beans, and this menu item is a great jumping-off point at Taco Bell.
2. Bean Burrito
The bean burrito is not only tasty but one of the healthiest options at Taco Bell. At 350 calories, it's very straightforward with beans, cheese, and a flour tortilla. It has 9 grams of total fat, 55 grams of carbohydrates, and 13 grams of protein. Note that the sodium levels on this order do hit just above 1,000, so enjoy these burritos in moderation.
3. Crunchy Taco
The crunchy taco has only 170 calories, 300 milligrams of sodium, and 13 grams of carbohydrates. It delivers 8 grams of protein and only 10 grams of total fat. You can further customize this with fresh vegetable toppings, rice, beans, and low-fat sour cream for added nutritional value.
4. Triple Layer Nachos
While the word “triple” may throw you off, these nachos only have 310 calories to their name. With chips, cheese, pinto beans, and sauce, these have 6 grams of protein and 15 grams of total fat. Sodium clocks in at 550 per serving, and they can be further customized.
5. Power Menu Veggie Bowl
And last, the veggie bowl from Taco Bell's “Power Menu.” This dish has 420 calories, 20 grams of total fat, 47 grams of carbohydrates, and 12 grams of protein. It has 870 milligrams of sodium, but it's a pretty comprehensive meal. This dish comes with beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. You can add in meats, more fresh chopped tomatoes, and other healthy additions.
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